Reduced costs of mixed-species pairings in flycatchers: By-product or female strategy?
Veen T., Träff J., Weissing FJ., Sheldon BC.
Heterospecific matings are generally assumed to be unconditionally disadvantageous due to reduced viability or fertility of hybrid offspring. For female collared flycatchers (Ficedula albicollis) mated to male pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca), the cost of heterospecific pair formation is reduced due to high levels of conspecific extra-pair paternity and a male-biased offspring sex ratio. In order to investigate whether these cost-reducing mechanisms are the result of female mating strategies, rather than being a by-product of species incompatibilities, we manipulated the plumage of male collared flycatchers before pair formation to make them resemble male pied flycatchers. Since species incompatibilities are absent in this design, any systematic effect of manipulation on sex ratio or paternity would indicate a role of female mating strategy. Paternity was determined by means of a likelihood approach that controls the errors made in assigning a chick to be 'within-pair' or 'extra-pair'. Neither the sex ratio nor the male share of paternity was affected by the manipulation in a systematic manner. We therefore conclude that our experimental data provide no support for the suggestion that female behavioural strategies are markedly adjusted in response to formation of mixed-species pairs.